Virtual reality: From conception to actualization
The concept of virtual reality, i.e. the sensory immersion of a user into a complete 3D experience, since at least the 1980s when the term was popularized and video arcade game fever was close to a cultural obsession in North American and East Asian countries. Gamers have been given promises of varied legitimacy since then, with the hopes of engaging in a full sensory environment ebbing and flowing in turn.
All that changed – so it seems – in 2016 with the release of the Oculus Rift. The results of a project some four years in the making, the Rift is a lightweight headgear device that, when linked to a PC or laptop, delivers by far the finest immersive, 3D virtual reality experience to date. Oculus’s product also breaks us that much closer to Holodeck technology à la Star Trek with a positional tracking system that scans the surrounding space, thereby allowing the user to move about a given room safely.
Announced and/or released shortly after the Rift were the HTC Vive and the PlayStation VR.
What is Virtual reality casinos and gaming?
Ever since the release of a prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show international trade fair in 2014, Oculus representatives have touted the Rift as primarily a gaming device. This, buoyed by Facebook’s headline-shattering acquisition of Rift manufacture and production for $2 billion in March ’14, spurred gaming software creators into overdrive to produce games for the Rift environment. And you can bet (so to speak) that quite a few online casino interests got to work as well.
At least one online casino owner reportedly invested some 10 months’ worth of programming work into designing a gaming room for Rift users. (To be sure, said investment of man-hours was not solely dedicated to creation of a Rift-based casino; the website today provides virtual reality-style 3D graphics and limited interaction as a milieu for slots and other games.)
And as previously stated, big names in casino game software such as Aristocrat, Microgaming and BetSoft are well into development of virtual reality slots and/or a 3D version for traditional PC/laptop play. Heck, BetSoft has been specializing in 3D slots since its origin, so virtual reality slots are definitely in this company’s financial wheelhouse.
Is there a future for virtual reality slots online?
Here’s where the news becomes of the good/bad variety. The good news is that revenue from virtual reality gear and software combined is forecast to rise at an exponential rate, from $110 million in 2014 to as much as $22 billion by the end of 2020. Clearly, the options in virtual reality slots and casino gaming will only increase through the 2010s and beyond. Massively.
Also on the plus side is some relatively crude technology in the video area of early VR sets. The Oculus Rift and its early competitors featured 1080 x 1200 resolution and a 90 Hz refresh rate. As we’ve seen with the explosion in popularity (and evolution of technology) of tablets, denser pixilation is always sought to increase that sharpness of image – a facet even more crucially important in the virtual reality environment.
The bad news is focused more in reality than in virtual reality, and said reality is this: Expansion to wider appeal of casino gaming in the VR format could well be stunted due to an old-fashioned generation gap. Studies have shown that the Millennial generation in North America, Europe and Asia is firstly not generally as enamored with traditional casino games as their Generation X and Baby Boomer forebears, already limiting the growth potential for virtual reality slots and casinos.
Additionally, though certain casino interests had the foresight to get in the business before the virtual reality boom, most producers of software for the Rift and its ilk are looking to develop more traditional action/adventure games, post-Minecraft world-building programs and anything that involves multiplayer interaction. Though the real-life casino pays heed to various social elements out of necessity, playing slots in particular is a solitary activity, even more so for the online slots player. This would seem to make selling an interactive environment quite difficult – though surely by no means impossible – to this market. If virtual reality slots are to succeed with the older crowd, VR casinos must somehow make their spots appealing beyond the games.
On the other hand, “social casinos,” i.e. those with interactive chat and even animated avatars, are growing at a phenomenal rate in the mid-2010s: $4.4 billion is the estimated combined take of these casino sites in ’17, up some $1 billion from three years previous. If virtual reality slots are to succeed with the younger crowd, they will need to be grounded in a MMPORG-like social environment.
How accessible will these VR slots be in the future?
Certainly, offerings in virtual reality slots and casino games will improve; the only questions remaining are all centered on just how accessible the games will be – not to mention how many oldsters can be taught new technological tricks.
But the potential for virtual reality slots is truly amazing. Imagine a full-on virtual casino on a “bricks-and-mortar” site at which a currently pricey Rift or other headset may be rented to enjoy Vegas-style gambling anywhere. Imagine the possibilities of thousands of games, as opposed to the hundreds the biggest online casinos support today. Just imagine.
Of course, very soon, you probably won’t have to…